September 5, 2019
By Jariatu S. Bangura
Former Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children Affairs, Dr. Sylvia O. Blyden, has stated at the ongoing Commissions of Inquiry presided over by Justice Bankole Thompson that the testimony of State Witness No. 1, Detective Police Ibrahim Khalil Sesay, manifested that she was being ambushed by the state.
Ibrahim Khalil Sesay is an Investigator attached at the Family Support Unit, Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Headquarters, Pademba Road in Freetown.
He told the inquiry that he was amongst a team of investigators that investigated an alleged case of physical abuse allegedly perpetuated by the former Minister of Social Welfare (Dr. Sylvia O. Blyden) in December 2016 at the Ministry’s office, New England.
Being a Person of Interest, Dr.Byden dismissed the service of her lawyer, Melron Nicol Wilson, stating that despite the fact that he is brilliant, he could not have been able to cross examine the witness that was before the tribunal because of the short notice given to him.
She argued that State Counsel should have served on her the list of all witnesses that would be testifying against her at the tribunal.
Representing herself before the commission,Dr.Blyden stated that there was no evidence to substantiate that the witness authored any of the documents before the tribunal.
“There is no document supplied to me which indicates all the names of the witnesses and also there is no document which is authored by the witness here today. I never knew that such a man does exist to testify in my case. I am here now in a dilemma. We need to have justice as what happened today in my view was very unfair. I was ambushed and if you don’t address it, I will be ambushed again. It is just fortunate that I am being saved by God to have come here. If justice is to be given, I think there is need for your orders to be followed,” she argued.
She noted that the judge should make sure his orders are followed by Counsel for the State.
Earlier,Blyden’s Lawyer,Melron Nicole Wilson, informed the tribunal that the State Counsel had not complied with orders that his client should be served with all relevant documents pertaining to the matter that is being investigated.
He told the judge that his client only received from Counsel for the State a three year -old police file relating to a matter that was investigated by the police, referred to the Law Officers Department and disposed for lack of merit.
He had made in his application on Monday that State Counsel should make available statements of all witnesses, summary of the case against his client and a disclosure of evidence, but to no avail.
According to Dr. Blyden, receiving the relevant documents as requested by her lawyer would have helped her retrieve necessary documents to adequately defend herself before the tribunal.
But Counsel representing the State, Robert Kowa stated that it was very unfortunate that he could not make available documents to the former minister, because they were not in his possession.
“This is an investigation and document can come in every now and then. We will have to take them as they come in and we will not reject them. I can understand her constraint but I cannot give what I don’t have. This is an investigation and there are times when testimonies are given if one thought it fit that he/she wants time to be given for cross-examination as to bring in more evidence, it will be granted by the tribunal. But I am constrained as to how I will be bringing or tailoring my witnesses that will be testifying,” he said.
He further noted that the liberty of rendering justice should also be accorded to him as the former minister took over three hours to conduct her cross-examination.
He said he has children that will be testifying but based on time, it will be difficult to conclude within the slated time given, hence urged the judge to be rigid on time factor.
He said failing to adhere to the time limit of 1:15minutes will take them over a month to conclude the investigation on the Ministry of Social Welfare.
Kowa admitted that he had been served with some documents which he did inform the former minister about, but that the latter insisted that they should go on with the issue that was at hand.
There was a bitter altercation between Dr.Blyden and Robert Kowa for which the latter demanded an apology from the former. Blyden had stated in her presentation that Kowa was behaving just like his witness by evading questions.
“Let professionals be allowed to do their work and I think it should be the norm. The time given must be abided by and I am respectfully asking that Dr. Blyden should apologize to me based on the fact that she insulted me publicly. I insist that she do so,” he stated.
Intervening, Justice Thompson noted that respect must be given to both counsels and witnesses, and that the time limit must be abided by.
He said lawyers are supposed to abide by the rule of law and that such should be applied to the then minister, thus ordering her to apologise for her utterances against the state counsel.
But Sylvia Blyden refused to apologise and insisted that she owes the State Counsel (Robert Kowa) absolutely no apologies.
The judge ruled that the former minister go home and do a re-think and meet him at his office today (Thursday 5th September, 2019).
Meanwhile, based on the application earlier made by defense counsel,Melrone Nicol Wilson,Robert had argued that he was guided by the constitution of the land and Instrument 64 of 2018,stating that he do believe that what has been put forward by his colleague Counsel sounds more of a defense.
He said there was no judgment before the tribunal indicating that the particular issue under review has been adjudicated upon or judgment delivered that will bar any further investigation.
“I am also within the parameters of the instrument to investigate those who have served as Ministers, Deputy Ministers and others in the period 2007-2018. The issue that is to be investigated took place within this period,” he said.
Kowa further stated that the Sierra Leone Police are in aid to assist the tribunal in its investigation and that whatever information that is made by them, if deemed as an issue to be investigated, it is but just and fair on the part of every party especially when it involves children for an impartial and fair hearing to be heard.
He said amongst documents to Dr. Sylvia Blyden as directed by this tribunal are that of a progress report on an alleged case of physical abuse from the Line Manager of the Family Support Unit, Criminal Investigations Department, a comprehensive analysis statement by witnesses, the shift facts of witnesses, findings and recommendations.